Rourke seals comeback in "iconic" wrestler role

Fri Sep 5, 2008 7:57am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - Mickey Rourke seals his comeback with a critically acclaimed performance as a lonely, washed out wrestler whose life painfully echoes that of the troubled Hollywood outsider.

"The Wrestler" is directed by Darren Aronofsky and is the last of 21 films in the main competition to premiere at the 2008 Venice film festival.

Although a latecomer, the moving story of a man's personal isolation and professional decline was immediately singled out as a favorite for the Golden Lion award for best film and the best actor prize for Rourke.

Rourke, who spent much of the last 15 years in the acting wilderness with a reputation for being difficult and volatile on set, named his physically and emotionally challenging performance in "The Wrestler" as his best yet.

"People for the last 15, 20 years would say, 'What's the favorite movie you've ever done, what's your best work?"' Rourke told Reuters in an interview in Venice.

"And I would say: 'I haven't made it yet.' And I can honestly say right now, the best fucking movie I've ever made is this," added the actor, who online biographies say is 51.

"Three of the hardest movies I ever made -- '9-1/2 Weeks', 'Angel Heart' and 'Year of the Dragon' -- and you could take all three of those movies and roll them into one and it wouldn't have been as hard as this."

Rourke trained hard in a Miami gym to put on the bulk required for the part. He also worked with professional wrestlers for scenes in the ring, a task complicated by the fact that he is a trained boxer.   Continued...

<p>Mickey Rourke arrives for the world premiere of U.S. director Steven Soderbergh's film "Ocean's 13" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 24, 2007. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>